UC Davis to offer sustainable environmental design major

UC Davis administration approved a new sustainable environmental design (SED) major within the College of Agricultural and Environmental Science under the Department of Human Ecology on Jan. 30.

The SED major will allow students to learn about sustainable and green designs and will allow them to pursue various careers within city and regional planning, architecture, real estate, education and several other fields.

“[It] will further UC Davis’ goal of providing cutting-edge sustainability education to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century,” said Patsy Eubanks Owens, chair of the Department of Human Ecology, in a press release.

The major was called for by the landscape architecture (LDA) program’s 2004 Strategic Plan and its 2009-14 Academic Plan, according to the Undergraduate Major Proposal for SED.

“There was a concern for people with an interest in sustainable environmental design who would go to landscape architecture but would not get in,” said Sharla Cheney, undergraduate adviser for landscape architecture and environmental design.

LDA is an intensive and selective program that only allows up to 36 applicants to declare it as a major each year. SED allows students without an aptitude for art, drafting and design interested in sustainable planning to pursue a degree.

“More want to take LDA than we can accommodate,” said Stephen Wheeler, an LDA professor.

Wheeler teaches one of the major’s core classes, LDA 3: Sustainable Development and Theory Practice. Many of SED’s core classes come from landscape architecture. Certain classes from civil and environmental engineering (ECI), community and regional development, plant science and environmental science and policy are included in the pre-approved electives that can be taken for the major.

Several LDA classes were changed to accommodate the new major, and three new classes, LDA 140: Green Building, Design and Materials, LDA 141: Community Participation in Design, and LDA 142: Applying Sustainability Strategies will be offered starting next year.

LDA 142 is a capstone course that students will take in the quarter before graduation. In it,  SED students will use the knowledge they have attained through their education to work on a real-world project.

“It provides students with a project to show future employers,” Cheney said.

New sustainable programs have sprung up over the past few years, including the sustainable agriculture and food systems major, a sustainability within the built environment minor within ECI, which were both established in 2011.

“SED is the first major focused on an urban environment,” Cheney said.

As of Feb. 12, four students have officially declared the major.

Gavin Pauley, second-year SED major, was the first to declare.

Pauley, originally a student in sustainable agriculture, became interested in UC Berkeley’s sustainable environmental design major. After hearing that UC Davis had just started offering SED, he switched his major as soon as possible.

“It’s the perfect medium between sustainable policy and agriculture theory,” Cheney said.

LDA 3, the class Wheeler teaches, spurred Pauley’s interest in sustainability and sustainable development. Wheeler was also Pauley’s faculty sponsor in an internship in which he took part over the past summer, living in a sustainable community in Costa Rica.

“Living a sustainable lifestyle is a big part of it,” Pauley said, referring to his education.

The program, though only two weeks old, has garnered a lot of attention.

“We hope to get 20-30 students in the first year,” Owens said.

Unlike LDA, SED is an open major that does not require an intensive application.

“We will at least meet the 20 to 30 student goal,” Cheney said.

Students interested in the major can contact Sharla Cheney, who is the major adviser for both LDA and SED, to schedule an appointment at scheney@ucdavis.edu.

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